“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.’”
I have been thinking about prayer a lot lately. Partly because of the weakness of my own prayer life, and partly because of the consequential nature of this election season.
In reflecting on prayer, I went back to Jesus’ model prayer in Matthew 6. I have previously looked at this prayer as being divided into two sections. The first section is prayer for God’s kingdom to come and for obedience to his will. The second section is about praying for our daily needs.
This is not wrong, but I have come to think a little differently.
Jesus’ first prayer request is that God’s name would be honored. This is a necessary request because the central issue in humanity’s fallenness is the refusal to honor God. Romans 1:18-21 says,
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and
unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown
it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine
nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in
the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although
they knew God, they did not honor him as God, or give thanks to him, but
they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
Jesus’ first petition is that God would be recognized in his rightful place.
The second request in this prayer is that God’s kingdom would be realized in our world. We live in a now/not yet reality. God certainly reigns over all things. The coming of Jesus was the coming of God’s kingdom. But, we know that God’s kingdom is not fully realized. Jesus prays that God would bring the “not yet” kingdom to our world.
Jesus’ third request is that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. He prayed that God would be obeyed by people like he is obeyed by angels. This means not merely occasionally and dutifully, but consistently and joyfully.
If I were to summarize Jesus’ prayer to this point, I would say that Jesus teaches us to pray that God would make his glory known.
I write as one confronted by Jesus’ emphasis in his teaching on prayer. I too often pray about my issues, my sins, my difficulties before taking the time to recognize that God is a loving Father/King. All of life is about him. It is first God’s honor, God’s kingdom, God’s will that ultimately matters. I exist to see, to proclaim, and to display his glory in honoring, hoping in, and obeying him. Yet I often pray as though God exists to make sure that my life is easy, comfortable, and pain-free.
I wonder how many prayer meetings in churches across this nation follow Jesus’ pattern in prayer and spend significant time praying toward the same ends as Jesus. Is it possible that revival and awakening tarries because we have ignored Jesus’ priority in prayer?
I hope you do not hear me say that our daily concerns don’t matter. This is not what I am saying. God is concerned about our daily lives, as evidenced by the second half of Jesus’ prayer. But, I have had a massive shift in how I pray for these concerns. Please allow me to explain in my next post.
Post contributed by Todd Wallace. Todd and his wife, Heather, are members of Springhill Baptist Church.